Young filmmakers take top prize at statewide contest
Jackson Bernhard, Isaac Bredbenner and Morgan Moss earned a coveted first place for their digital movie “Lost Bottle” at the Pennsylvania High School Computer Fair.
The competition took place in late May at Dickinson College, Carlisle.
A $150 check was awarded to the three seniors for their work.
“Jackson wrote it, but we constructed the idea together on a white board,” Bredbenner said. “We decided to do a love story that didn’t work out, along with a story about siblings.”
“We knew we wanted to do something for the computer fair,” Bernhard said. “We wanted to do a nontraditional love story showing the importance of family and growing up.
“When the older brother becomes a father figure, the film becomes a kind of coming of age tale.”
Bredbenner said the moral of the short film is to show one is better than the other.
“There’s a certain impermanence to young romantic love, but you should always keep your family close.”
The three students were encouraged by their teacher, Michael Sikora.
“They were in my independent study, except for Morgan who was pulled in,” Sikora said. “It’s not really a class per se.”
Moss wrote the music for the film.
“I watched parts of the film to see what kind of emotions it elicited,” Moss said. “Then, I kind of made each piece of the musical score a little longer.”
“I think our kids need to be challenged and [competing] against other school districts pushes them a little harder,” Sikora said. “The fact they can take it to a state competition ups the ante.”
Sikora emphasized the importance of starting with a good story.
“The writing has to be creative, or funny, or informative in an interesting way,” he explained. “If you can draw out an emotion using video, I think that is pretty powerful, but so is laughter [and] watching the character come out on screen.”
The trio advanced to the state level after winning a first place at the 18th annual CLIU 21 Middle and High School Regional Computer Fair in March.
Eight districts in Carbon and Lehigh counties participated including Parkland, Whitehall, Jim Thorpe and Panther Valley.
At the regional level, categories included digital movie, animation, computer fair logo, graphic design, programming and Web page design.
“We’ve been competing every year for the last five years,” Sikora said.
This year, the regional high school computer fair took place at Lehigh Carbon Community College, Schnecksville. First-place winners advanced to the state level.
“I love to watch students develop skills,” Sikora said. “It’s similar to watching a student become a better writer but with film, the student develops a story using video. I love watching a student become a better actor or videographer taking some of the basics they learn with me and crafting their own style.”
At the Emmaus Arts Commission 2017 Student Film Festival in Emmaus, Northwestern captured second place with its entry “Family Curse” and third place with “Obsession.”
Northwestern was one of 12 different schools submitting entries. Films were screened at the Emmaus Theater.
“It’s neat to see kids develop after a couple of competitions,” Sikora said after they came in first at the Emmaus horror festival.
“Video is the ultimate communication tool for these times,” Sikora said. “Years ago, communication primarily meant print, but now with YouTube, you learn how to do something by watching someone else’s video.”
In addition to film, both Bredbenner and Bernhard explore other media by volunteering at WDIY, a public broadcasting station in the Lehigh Valley.
“It’s cool to get in the radio station and kind of see how it’s run,” Bernhard said. “We learned the format for doing radio reports and news stories and we learned how to contact people and do interviews with them.”
“They went 10 Saturdays,” Sikora said. “And hopefully they’ll have a 4-minute segment.
“They’re learning but they’re going after whatever they want to learn.”